European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic has accused No 10 of failing to implement a range of obligations under the Northern Ireland Protocol as he warned sweeping changes to the protocol will not be possible.
In a letter to Michael Gove, Sefcovic said the EU would not considering softening protocol obligations unless the UK complies with what was agreed by both sides back in December.
He said “blanket derogations” on certain meat and animal-derived products “cannot be agreed beyond what the Protocol foresees already”.
Sefcovic said border control posts at Belfast and Larne ports were “not yet fully operational” and that controls being carried out there by Northern Ireland veterinary officials were “not in compliance with the Withdrawal Agreement”.
He said there were “very few checks” on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain and said that non-compliant consignments were still flowing from NI into the Republic.
The letter is in response to one from Gove last week which demanded sweeping changes to the protocol, including extending grace periods for controls on products of animal origin until January 1, 2023.
Sefcovic also said that, contrary to the 17 December agreement between both sides, EU representatives were still being denied real time access to the UK’s IT systems, such as the import clearance system, or CDS.
He writes: “We are thus not currently receiving the information as to how mutually agreed flexibilities including, eg, the trusted trader scheme, or simplified health certificates are being used in practice.”
Sefcovic goes on to accuse the UK of telling traders sending goods from Northern Ireland to Britain that they do not have to submit “equivalent information” to an exit summary declaration which, he said, was “contrary to the commitment taken by the UK” on December 17.
He also said that if the UK wanted to agree a common travel area for pets moving between Britain and the island of Ireland, and for the lifting of the ban on seed potatoes “and other plants and plant products”, then “any flexibility would entail the UK committing to align with the relevant EU rules”.
Sefcovic said he was “convinced” these issues were the result of “teething problems”.
A UK government spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that the Commission has failed to acknowledge the shock and anger felt right across the community in Northern Ireland from its decision to trigger Article 16, and the need to take urgent steps to restore confidence as a result.
“The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will underline the need for such action and political leadership in this regard when meeting with Vice-President Sefcovic in London tomorrow evening.”
Both men are due to meet in what is expected to be a tense meeting tomorrow in London.